Breathing In Unison
It should no longer be news that there are so many world-class Italian piano players. But in the United States, we keep getting startled when yet another hits the radar, usually when they move from record labels distributed only in Europe to companies like ECM or CAM Jazz. To a list that includes Stefano Bollani, Enrico Pieranunzi, Danilo Rea, Stefano Battaglia and Giovanni Guidi, add another name: Claudio Filippini.
Compared to his countrymen above, he is a less clearly differentiated voice and a more cautious improviser. But his virtues are seductive. They include poise, taste, a flowing elegance that sounds innate and an ability to just touch a melody and bathe it in new golden light. Sometimes those melodies are his own, like “South Michigan Avenue,” a slow, dramatic hovering. Often they are old standards or songs on the margins of pop culture, like Rufus Wainwright’s “Poses.” With minimal improvisation, Filippini turns Wainwright’s introverted, twisted little tune into something large and lush. “As Time Goes By” seems an improbable choice. But Filippini parts with it so reluctantly, a phrase at a time, that each hesitation is taut with emotional suspense. The resolutions arrive like revelations.
Palle Danielsson and Olavi Louhivuori come from deep within this album’s intimate atmosphere. Danielsson’s counterlines are concurrent alternative poetry. As a bass soloist he can freeze you in your chair, pizzicato (Louhivuori’s “Night Flower”) or arco (Filippini’s “The Sleepwalker”). Luohivuori, one of the most exciting young drummers in jazz, usually works in louder, edgier settings. He is sensitive and subtle here, placing accents with his brushes in unexpected perfect places.
Johnny Mandel’s “A Time for Love” is rapt. Filippini lets the melody chime out again and again, releasing it from where it has long resided, in the heart. You keep changing your mind about your favorite track on Breathing in Unison.